In the Face of Intense Competition

Financial institutions face intense competition from non-banks like PayPal, American Express, Walmart and Quicken Loans…  and a rapidly changing demographic that demands new approaches to attract and retain customers (be it individual or business).  Today’s post takes a look at two financial technology companies working to keep banks relevant as customers increasingly expect a“one stop shop” in all areas of their lives.


Over on

On FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s newly launched website at ESPN, the editorial team leverages statistical analysis to tell compelling stories about politics, science and yes, sports.  While much digital ink has been spilled on this week’s NFL draft,  the site’s chief economics writer, Ben Casselman, authored a piece that caught my eye.  Thanks to a keynote presentation by Fox News’ Juan Williams at this January’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference, I’m far more aware of the changing demographics of the United States — and what that means for financial institutions.


Based on my conversations with Juan in the desert, I found early inspiration for today’s piece while pouring over Ben’s What Baby Boomers’ Retirement Means For the U.S. Economy.  In combination with economic shifts — both domestically and globally — it is clear that changing demographics are transforming businesses.  As we trend towards a younger populace, Ben writes “all else equal, fewer workers means less economic growth… If more of the population is young or old that leaves fewer working-age people to support them and contribute to the economy.”  Clearly, banks need to be prepared to serve a population that will live longer.  Maybe more importantly, they need to court their most valuable customers — Gen X&Y and Millennials (relationships built, “gulp” through online & mobile experiences).

Putting Checks into the Cloud

In the world of checks, VerifyValid acknowledges that “paper is simply a vessel for holding information. The real check is the data fields it contains: the check number, the amount, the routing number, the recipient, and most important of all, the authorizing action which says that the account holder agrees to pay the stated amount to the payee.”  I had a chance to see Paul Doyle, the company’s Founder & CEO, inspire a crowd of CEOs and board members at The Growth Conference last week.  Flying home from New Orleans, I spent some time learning how the company overcame the challenge in providing this information electronically in such a way that prevents fraud.  As I see it, VerifyValid lowers an organization’s costs while increasing efficiency and financial security with every payment.  IMHO, their 2 minute, 25 second video is worth a watch.

Making Money Simple, Attractive and Intelligent

Located “in the heart of Utah’s Silicon Slopes,” MoneyDesktop is redefining the way millions of people interact with their finances.  As one of the fastest-growing financial technology providers, MoneyDesktop positions banks and credit unions as the financial hub of their account holders — think Mint on steroids — with its personal financial management, data-driven analytics and marketing technologies.  Some 450 financial institutions rely on this software-as-a-service vendor… and I saw last night they have plans to grow significantly in the months to come.  They write, and I agree, that account holders are changing.  “There is an ongoing shift away from traditional brick & mortar banking (and) technology is providing better ways for account holders to interact with their money, and with financial institutions.”  An interesting company delivering a very clean and user-friendly experience.

Aloha Friday!

Who Says There Is No Growth In Banking

Two big takeaways from the second day of Bank Director’s 2nd annual Growth conference (#BDGrow14): institutions of all sizes are challenged when it comes to standing out from the crowd & enhancing your mobile banking presence should be a top priority for all boards of directors.

A 2 Minute Recap on the Past 4 Months


Take No Risk, Make No Money
While some may not think about enterprise risk management in the context of growing one’s bank, Crowe’s Jennifer Burke made clear that proactively identifying, mitigating, and in some cases, capitalizing on risks provides a distinct advantage to a bank.  Keep in mind that even smaller institutions — with less complex business structures — face myriad risks that might significantly affect their ability to meet their growth plans.  As Jennifer shared, those that proactively identify and respond to risks and opportunities gain a competitive advantage over their peers, especially in responding to our ever-changing business environment.

Millennial and the End of Banking?

The Times-Picayune ran a nice story in today’s edition based on The Growth Conference.  The newspaper noted that “younger generations report more comfort with online and mobile banking tools, posing a hurdle for banks used to ginning up business through face-to-face interactions.”  So it is fair to ask if banks should be scared of the millennial generation.  According to Daryl Byrd, president and CEO of IberiaBank, the answer is no.  As mentioned in this piece (Will Millennials be the end of banking as we know it? Bank execs weigh in at Growth Conference in New Orleans), Byrd was among a panel of industry leaders gathered at the Bank Director Growth Conference to discuss business trends, including the challenges in reaching younger customers.  Byrd, “who noted he is the father of three Millennials, said his children, like many in their generation, aren’t building wealth as much as they are taking on debt. That means their demand for banking services will be limited in the near term,” he said.

Trending Topics

The issues I took note of this morning were, in no particular order:

  • Just like “synergy” became a cliché, so too might “omni” when it comes to delivering a consistent customer experience (e.g. omni-screen, omni-channel, etc);
  • Not all customers are created equally;
  • A bank’s board has the chance to re-set strategies to target, acquire, engage, grow and retain customers… but need to look ahead to what’s possible as opposed to the past to see what has historically delivered results.

To comment on this piece, click on the green circle with the white plus sign on the bottom right. Safe travels home to all who joined us in New Orleans this week (and yes, Aloha Friday!)

The Growth Conference – Thursday Recap

It is obvious that the most successful banks today have a clear understanding of, and laser-like focus on, their markets, strengths and opportunities.  One big takeaway from the first full day of Bank Director’s Growth Conference (#BDGrow14 via @bankdirector): banking is absolutely an economies of scale business.


A 2 Minute Recap


Creating Revenue Growth

At events like these, our Publisher, Kelsey Weaver, has a habit of saying “well, that’s the elephant in the room” when I least expect it.  Today, I took her quip during a session about the strategic side of growth as her nod to the significant challenges facing most financial institutions — e.g. tepid loan growth, margin compression, higher capital requirements and expense pressure & higher regulatory costs.  While she’s right, I’m feeling encouraged by anecdotes shared by growth-focused bankers considering (or implementing) strategies that create revenue growth from both net interest income and fee-based revenue business lines. Rather than lament the obstacles preventing a business from flourishing, we heard examples of how and why government-guaranteed lending, asset based lending, leasing, trust and wealth management services are contributing to brighter days.

Trending Topics
Overall, the issues I took note of were, in no particular order: bank executives and board members need to fully embrace technology; there is real concern about non-bank competition entering financial services; the board needs to review its offerings based on generational expectations and demands;  and those that fail to marry strategy with execution are doomed. Lastly, Tom Brown noted that Bank of America’s “race to mediocrity” actually makes it an attractive stock to consider.  Who knew being average can pay off?


To comment on this piece, click on the green circle with the white plus (+) sign on the bottom right.  More tomorrow from the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.

FI Tip Sheet: Positive Trends

A few weeks ago, to begin “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” I shared the need for banks to think differently or risk becoming obsolete.  This morning’s column builds on that idea by looking at some of the characteristics of top performing publicly held banks based on a research piece shared by Raymond James.  I studied this list and realized quite a few of the “winners” leverage design trends, the second point in today’s post, to differentiate their messaging.  My third and final point looks at technology expertise making its way into a bank’s boardroom — and provides an excuse to post a number of pictures from my time in Nashville last week. 

Top of the (Performance) Pack
Recently, Raymond James presented its second annual Community Bankers Cup.  This “award” recognizes the top 10% of community banks based on various profitability, operational efficiency and balance sheet metrics culled from a pool of 302 publicly traded community banks with assets between $500 million and $10 billion.  What we see in the firm’s recap is superior financial accomplishment drives superior stock price returns.  These 30 banks (e.g. Eagle Bancorp, First Financial, etc.) demonstrated exceptional results “on a relative basis in one or more of the following measurements of financial performance and stability: non-performing assets to loans and real estate owned, five-year average core deposit percentage, net interest margin, efficiency ratio, return on average assets, and return on average tangible common equity.”  If you are looking for examples of strong + healthy banks that have taken creative ideas to build a business, and subsequently monetized them, take a look at what the Raymond James team writes about these 30 institutions.

Ahead of the Curve
Since the beginning of the most recent global financial crisis in 2008, Getty Images has been tracking the changes in imagery used by financial services providers to represent their brand.  In their words, “gone are the depictions of aspiration and conspicuous wealth as financial services brands try to re-establish trust with their customers.”  In their place comes creative uses of community support “set-up for the long-term to  demonstrate their responsibility for local businesses, communities and the environment.”  Take a look at this “visual trends in financial services marketing” to get a truer sense of what’s working for bank marketers today.


Surprisingly Staffed
Last week, our team welcomed 117 bank officers and directors to the Hermitage in Nashville.  At this spectacularly Southern hotel, we went a bit old school and put pen + paper in front of these decision makers to ask five technology-specific questions.  I don’t normally equate technical proficiency with a bank’s officers and directors; however, the vast majority of attendees shared that their executive team has at least two people with strong technology understanding/experience.  While a small sample size, more then 50% of these key leaders responded to our query… and the results underscore, in my opinion, the importance being placed on  technology at community banks.  In addition, I did hear from several Chairmen that they are adding outside directors with an understanding of issues like cyber security risk and how to oversee vendor management.  If you’re interested to see what an event looks like from my POV, here’s a look (photos courtesy of Don Wright Designs & Photography)

Aloha Friday!

To Zig or Zag

While President Obama’s nomination of Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen to lead the central bank garnered significant attention this week, the twittersphere was ablaze with news on emerging payments and financial services.  Personally, I focused a lot of my time on retail banking, advertising and marketing stories — a pleasant diversion from the political showdown here in Washington.  Accordingly, this week’s column highlights the creative side of building relationships and engaging with potential customers.  Please let me know what you think via Twitter (@aldominick) or by commenting below.

(1) How Do You Introduce a Mobile-Only Bank? With a Mobile Orchestra, Of Course.  Now, I realize most banks in the U.S. have nowhere near the budget needed for an advertisement like this. Still, BNP Paribas‘ “Hello Bank!” — which claims to be Europe’s first fully digital mobile bank — pulls off “a smart orchestra stunt.” According to AdAge, “the campaign brought together the talents from the musical and tech world for a one-of-a-kind performance by the orchestra that showed what you could do with just your mobile phone.”  Taped during a performance in Prague, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra’s 60 musicians put aside their instruments for a special performance of “Carmen.”  Take a look:

(2) From your ears to your eyes, a test of your social media savvy: #PACYOURBAGS. Do you get the hashtag?  Here’s a hint: this is a promotion run by Bank of the West (a wholly owned subsidiary of BNP Paribas).  Still confused?  While many still wrestle with a social media strategy, the San Francisco-based bank has taken to Instagram and Facebook to offer exclusive Pac-12 content — including news, events and videos — to better engage with current and potential customers under this hashtag.

Bank of the West hashtag

Visit their Facebook page and you’ll be invited to “capture any great moments from this week’s college football games… Tag them with #PACYOURBAGS on Instagram to enter and you could win $250 and a trip for two to the Rose Bowl Stadium on 1/1/14!”  Dare I say, #Cool.

(3) From Prague to the Pac-12, we’ve covered a lot in a short amount of time.  To wrap things up, let me share a story closer to home.  This one involves a few plucky upstarts taking on the biggest of the big.  No, this isn’t a tale of a community bank competing head on with Bank of America; rather, a link to an article that shows multiple startups trying to disrupt various sectors within the consumer goods industry.  Much like their BofA and Wells Fargo brethren, P&G and Unilever “have scale but are under constant assault from savvy upstarts.”  Yes, I’m drawing a parallel between the razor blades you might find in your bathroom to the battle for bank customers vis-a-vis “How Tiny Startups Like Hello and 800Razors Are Stealing Share From CPG Giants.” The premise: “smaller brands’ ability to break through goes to digital disruption in media and retailing.”  An interesting parallel, especially for those bankers willing “to zig away from the strategic and creative zags of category titans.”

Aloha Friday!

Bank Blogs and the Boston RedSox


Hm, I wonder which will trend higher this evening… bank blogs or the Boston RedSox.  I guess we’re about to find out.

A few weeks ago, The Financial Brand penned a piece called “Top 20 Best Blogs for Financial Marketers.” As they explained: “(we follow) approximately 100 active blogs in the banking space. But in the last six years, more than that have died. That’s right, there are more dead blogs in the bank and credit union marketing world than live ones (108, to be exact). That’s why The Financial Brand thinks it is important to recognize the best of those that are still going.”

I’m just getting through their list of twenty as I prepare for game four of my favorite team’s playoff game.  Quite a few good ones cited by in this list; please allow me share the top nine — in honor of the greatest RedSox of all time, the splendid splinter, Ted Williams.  (*To be clear, 100% credit to the Financial Brand for the summaries on each of the following.)

1. Snarketing 2.0

Primary Author(s): Ron Shevlin, Senior Analyst with Aité Group

Ron has been blogging for a long time now, and his content is consistently some of the most original, insightful, entertaining and thought-provoking material in the financial industry. Ron frequently discusses issues related to data, research and analytics (particularly in the banking space), and even when he does talk about non-financial issues he almost always puts it into a context that bank and credit union marketers will appreciate.

2. ACTON Financial Marketing Insights

Primary Author(s): Steve Topper, Joe Swatek

This blog is about as practical and tactical as a financial marketer will ever find. Steve regularly critiques ads, offers and direct mail pieces from both banks and credit unions, while Joe offers more general advice. It’s a near daily dose of clinical analysis, never off-topic, rarely (if ever) self-promotional, and maintains a constant focus on helping financial marketers sharpen their design and copywriting skills.

3. Bank Marketing Strategy

Primary Author(s): Jim Marous, SVP, Corporate Development at New Control

Of all the banking blogs out there, Jim’s is most similar to The Financial Brand. Jim regularly discusses the design of retail banking products/services, pricing, marketing and the customer experience. Jim’s posts will also frequently gravitate towards new/emerging technologies and channel integration, with a slant towards mobile. Some financial marketers will struggle putting the insights in some of these posts to use, but they will always find the material interesting and engaging.

4. Visible Banking

Primary Author(s): Christophe Langlois

If the subject of social media in the financial industry interests you, then this is the best one out there. There are few people who can match Christophe’s intellect, experience and passion for social channels in finance. He’s also extremely gracious and polite, even when he offers criticism — you can tell he’s a pleasant and affable Frenchman. Christophe’s blog posts are frequently built around case studies. He could be looking at the Twitter activity of a major European insurer one day, then the Facebook page from a U.S. bank the next. You never know exactly what he’ll be covering next, but you can always count on reading a fair analysis of social initiatives from financial institutions only.

5. The Gallup Blog

Primary Author(s): Assorted

This is a special blog Gallup has set up specifically for the financial industry. While they don’t publish as frequently as other blogs, they quality of content and caliber of writing are both top-notch. Their focus tends to skew towards the strategic side, but usually their articles will have relevancy to financial marketers at all levels — from CMOs down to Marketing Managers. And they support all their perspectives, opinions and recommendations with data, as you’d expect from a research firm as prestigious as Gallup.

6. The Raddon Report

Primary Author(s): Louie Lambrou, Pat Bator, et al

The research team at Raddon Financial Group has been pumping out posts that both bank and credit unions marketers would find relevant for at least 4-5 years now. Nearly every post they publish (except for the password-protected ones) offer something a financial marketing executive will find useful. You’ll always find data and charts in articles like “The Top Five Reasons Consumers Close a Checking Account,” ” How Consumers Currently Use Home Equity Lines of Credit” and “Demand for New and Used Auto Loans.” What kind of marketing exec in the retail banking space isn’t interested in that kind of information?

7. Datamonitor Financial

Primary Author(s): Assorted

This is another strong blog from a research firm concentrating on the financial industry. And if there’s one thing bank and credit union marketers can’t get enough of, it’s insight supported by data. Datamonitor’s analysts pay close attention to the major shifts shaping financial services today. There posts are almost always the same length (around 250 words), but they manage to pack a gem or two into their compact format. Some readers might not relate to all the topics, nor find the international coverage particularly useful, but it’s still a blog many financial marketers should consider adding to their reading list.

8. Netbanker

Primary Author(s): Jim Bruene

Long before Jim Bruene founded the Finovate series of conferences, he was publishing fantastic reviews about new developments in the fintech world, skewing heavily towards online — and now mobile — innovations. In fact, he’s been blogging since 1996 — seventeeeeeen years, just about as old as the internet itself. In “blog years,” that would make Netbanker like 150 years old. Financial marketers might not find relevancy in everything Jim publishes, but the truth is: When a guy’s been doing what he’s doing as long as Jim has, you should listen to what he has to say. Everything is moving to digital channels, and financial marketers that want to stay abreast of the latest developments will want to read Netbanker.

9. Financial Services Club Blog

Primary Author(s): Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner is what you could call a “financial philosopher.” He doesn’t write blog posts so much as he publishes essays and treatises. He will frequently wax about some fairly heady subjects like what banking might look like 100 years from now. As engrossing as these discussions can be, it isn’t the kind of stuff many lower-level marketing managers will likely find very applicable in their day jobs. It’s really suited best for CMOs, COOs, CEOs and bank directors.